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$1.1B Pittsburgh Airport Revamp Put on Hold

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

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The $1.1 billion overhaul for the Pittsburgh International Airport is officially on hold indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that while the project is on hold, it is still necessary for the airport’s future, according to Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis.

Project Background

The authority announced the project, which includes a new landside terminal, new roads, and a new building for baggage and security, in September 2017.

The current facility, which cost around $900 million to construct, opened in 1992 and was built as a hub for the now-defunct US Airways. At that time, the airport saw as many as 38 million passengers a year. It has steadily decreased since then, however, and current numbers indicate right around 8 million annual passengers.

While the authority looked at a few different directions to update the airport—officials had been working on this for more than two years—building a new landside terminal was actually the cheapest option, according to Cassotis.

Images: Allegheny County Airport Authority

The $1.1 billion overhaul for the Pittsburgh International Airport is officially on hold indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials.

The current layout features a massive landside terminal equipped with elevators, escalators and a tram system that, nearing 30 years old, are approaching costly repairs. The tram itself (an underground train that shuttles people from landside to airside) costs $3 million a year to operate, according Pittsburgh’s CBS affiliate.

The new terminal will be built in between the C and D concourses and attach to the current airside terminal, which will be updated. This will put everything basically on one level, eliminating most escalators and the tram. The “dogleg” ends of the A and B concourses will also be eliminated, leaving the number of gates open at 51, about a dozen more than what’s used today, allowing some leeway for potential growth. There is no official word on what will happen to the current landside terminal, though the authority has confirmed that it has set aside the necessary funds to demolish the structure.

The new, smaller facility is estimated to save $23 million a year in operation and maintenance costs. In addition, Cassotis said the cost per passenger would fall from an average of $12.69 to $9.73.

“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” said Airport Authority Chairman David Minnotte at the time of the announcement. “The costs are lower for the airlines, the airport gets a new facility, that will be very efficient and modern. And, finally, this is most important for me, the people of Pittsburgh finally get an airport that is built for them, and not US Air.”

The new terminal comes with an estimated price tag of $783.8 million, in addition to the new parking garage ($258.8 million) and new roads ($57.1 million). The project will be paid for by the airlines, bonds, grants, and revenue from Marcellus shale gas drilling, parking and airport shops.

Officials estimate that more than 6,000 temporary design and construction jobs will be created, along with 4,500 “spin-off” jobs to support the purchases of supplies and services as well as spending wages earned by the workers.

Contracts

In April 2018, the authority revealed a shortlist of design contenders, which included teams from AECOM, Corgan and Michael Baker, Gensler and HDR, and Luis Vidal + Architects/CannonDesign.

In July, multiple firms ended up with the job, as Gensler (San Francisco) entered into a joint venture with HDR (Omaha) and that agreement formed an association with Luis Vidal (Madrid).

The contract with the JV is worth a reported $15 million.

Then, in April of last year, the authority awarded more than $7 million in contracts—$3.98 million to the joint venture of PJ Dick and Hunt Construction Group Inc. and $3.17 million to Turner Construction Co.—for construction management. Both are contracts for preconstruction only.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that while the project is on hold, it is still necessary for the airport’s future, according to Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the JV is responsible for overseeing the construction of the new $783 million landside building, roads and bridges, and the baggage handling system as well as any required utility relocations. Turner will oversee the construction of a $258.8 million parking garage of 3,000 spaces, surface lots, a new ground transportation center and rental car facilities.

Design

The design concept for the terminal modernization program was revealed in February and officials said that they pulled from “the rolling hills and rivers, neighborhoods and communities and new economic diversity that has led to Pittsburgh’s re-emergence over the past few decades.”

Based on the idea of combining nature, philosophy and community, the design features high ceilings and large windows, which will equip the facility with greenery and natural light.

While subject to change, the concept design currently includes:

  • Separate levels for departing and arriving passengers and a non-public level for building systems such as baggage belts;
  • Additional space for an expanded TSA checkpoint;
  • Shorter walking distances for arriving and departing domestic and international passengers;
  • Indoor and outdoor green plazas and gathering spaces;
  • Additional space for concessions, artwork and other amenities;
  • Planning for technological improvements and more automated systems; and
  • Emphasis on sustainability.

What Now

Cassotis said that, while the pause in the project comes as one of the worst economic tolls that the airline industry has ever seen, it does present an opportunity to consider how the airport should be designed in a post-pandemic world.

Suggestions of plexiglass at ticket counters, floor markings that encourage people to stay six feet apart and more-visible cleaning efforts are all some of the ideas that the airport is looking at.

Officials are also reportedly forming a public health advisory committee to study the issues further.

Cassotis wouldn’t speculate on how long the project would be delayed, though the terminal was expected to be complete in 2023, with project bids originally anticipated to be released by the end of this year.

   

Tagged categories: Airports; Commercial Construction; Contracts; COVID-19; Maintenance + Renovation; NA; North America; Renovation

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